A great and historic economic opportunity lies before Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe said last week in Maple Creek.
He declared that the province can become a North American “energy powerhouse”.
“The world wants what we have today. The world wants our food desperately, the world wants our fertilizer desperately, and the world wants the energy that we can provide very much.”
Moe said his government had been reaching out to potential investors as part of a growth agenda.
“We have some more work to do, we have some more calls to make in the coming weeks and months, and years ahead, but know that it’s this government’s goal – and in this government we view it as our job – to ultimately enhance and foster that opportunity that lies before us.
“I would say we are on the cusp of an opportunity as large for sure and possibly larger than we have ever had in our province’s history. That’s the opportunity to really develop in a sustainable way the resources that we have.”
Moe’s upbeat message was delivered at a town-hall meeting at the Elks’ Hall last Friday. He was accompanied by Doug Steele, Cypress Hills MLA.
About 65 people attended the forum, which went on for more than two hours. After Moe’s preamble, the floor was opened up to the public.
Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moe said people had experienced a very challenging two years in their personal lives and careers.
“We’ve had to make some challenging decisions as your government and not everyone agrees with those decisions – not everyone in our caucus agrees with those decisions – as we’ve found our way through the last couple of years. But we always tried to make the best decision that we could with the information that we had at that point in time.”
Moe said caucus had gathered to discuss Saskatchewan’s post-COVID recovery.
“We were talking about the opportunity that Saskatchewan, and many people in the world are going to have, as the world starts to rev up its economic engine again and starts to recover from all the various things that have happened in the last couple of years.
“We tasked our economic ministers, our minister of trade and export, for example, our minister of agriculture, our minister of energy and resources, as well as our minister of environment that works closely with all of those other developments, those investments that potentially will come to the province, and we said ‘go through your Rolodex and anybody essentially that you met with over the last three to five years that has even mentioned that they might be interested in investing in Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan agriculture and potash, the oil industry, the helium industry, the uranium industry, the forestry industry up in the part of the world where I am, let’s reach out to them’.”
Moe said the province was benefiting from major investments, including BHP’s approval last year of C$7.5 billion in capital expenditure for the Jansen Stage 1 potash project. The plan is to develop the world’s largest potash-producing mine, providing a source of potassium to keep soils fertile and maximize food production.
“When you look at what is happening with the BHP investment, for example, in Jansen, what’s happening with some of the helium investments down in this part of the world, when you look at what is happening with the canola investments, when you look at what is happening with the forestry space up where I live, for example, we are seeing significant investment in all of these industries that create jobs in our community, in all of these industries that ultimately will allow us to attract people to move to our communities, bring their families to our communities, and ultimately, and this is what wakes me up every morning, is going to provide the opportunity for our children and next generation to make a choice or have the choice to stay here in their communities and have a career possibly in the community where they were raised, wherever that might be in Saskatchewan.
“That is the growth agenda that we have. That is the growth agenda that we actively have been working on. We are going to meet some of the targets that we had set out in our plan for growth out to the year 2030 a little earlier than we had anticipated.
“We haven’t discussed it yet, but it’s quite possible that we are going to have to have a look at that document sooner rather than later and update some of the targets that we had around canola production, for example.”
The aim had been to process 75 per cent of the canola grown in the province.
“We are going to achieve that far sooner than 2030,” Moe said.
He added: “We wanted to increase our value-added exports by $10 billion here in the province. We are going to achieve that quite likely far sooner than 2030. We wanted to increase our potash production in the province, well due to some … yes, a resurgence of the economy globally and a need for fertilizer globally, and some other geopolitical … well, let’s call it what it is, a war … we are going to reach our potash goals far sooner than we have anticipated as well.”
Moe said the continent of North America needed to have a very serious and grown-up conversation about energy security.
“… We can be, most certainly in North America, an energy powerhouse. We can most certainly provide that energy security for all Canadians and North Americans, we only need to look to the very successful model that has been in operation for years in the case of food security. There have been glitches along the way … we find our way through those glitches and I would say we have a real opportunity for us in the next number of years to advance this conversation around using the positive example of food security to provide energy security to all of us in North America.
“Why does the investment matter? Why does energy security matter? That is on full display in the European Union. If you take your eye off the ball when it comes to energy security, the perplexing situation that you can be put in, many European Union countries are in that situation today and we will do our part to ensure that doesn’t happen in Saskatchewan, Canada.”
Moe said investment was vitally important to communities like Maple Creek.
“I said earlier this is our growth agenda, this is our opportunity to attract people to live, to move into our communities, to bring their families. I’ve seen that happen over the course of the last 15 years or so, 90,000 people from over 150 countries have moved into Saskatchewan communities. I see them in my constituency (Rosthern-Shellbrook), I see them across the province. But most importantly as I said this provides us with that opportunity for our next generation to choose to have a career in Saskatchewan and ultimately choose to have a career at home. And if we continue to attract this investment, create those jobs, create that opportunity, grow our communities, we will continue to provide that opportunity for our children. For me, it is providing an opportunity that maybe generations in the last while haven’t had.
“It also provides that growing economy, the opportunity for us to continue to invest right back into communities like Maple Creek, like Shaunavon, like Gull Lake, communities like Leader, it allows us to continue to invest into services that you expect your provincial government to be investing in.”
Moe said there had been investment in healthcare and education.
This month, he said, government announced it was providing Saskatchewan’s school divisions with a one-time investment of $20 million in funding for the 2022-23 school year to assist with rising fuel and insurance costs. With these additional funds, school divisions will be able to prevent inflationary costs from diverting resources away from classrooms.
“So, we are going to continue to invest in those very services that you in this room, and quite frankly people in communities across this province, expect us to continue to invest in. But the only way we are able to do that is by the strength of our economy here in this province. This has been our model for about 15 years now, and is going to continue to be our model as we look ahead to the next number of years …”